Ry Cooder was born on March 15, 1947, in Los Angeles. He has played with notable musicians and groups, including the Rolling Stones, and released multiple records under his own name, including Paradise and Lunch. He also has composed numerous film soundtracks. In the 1990s, he ventured into the world music genre, and his collaboration with Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré won a Grammy for Best World Music Album. In all, Cooder has won six Grammys. In 2013, he released Live in San Francisco, his first live album since 1977.
World music slide guitarist, composer and six-time Grammy Award winner Ry Cooder was born Ryland Peter Cooder on March 15, 1947, in Los Angeles, to lawyer and folk singer Bill Cooder and his wife, Emma Casaroli Cooder. He learned to play the guitar at the age of 3, but the following year, a self-inflicted accident with a knife took his left eye, which had to be replaced with a glass eye. The accident did not, however, deter him from pursuing a career in music.
Session Work and Soundtracks
By the early 1960s Cooder was playing folk and blues music in Southern California, and in 1963, at age 16, was performing alongside popular vocalist Jackie DeShannon. He started the band The Rising Sons in 1966, which also included blues musician Taj Mahal and drummer Ed Cassidy. He played on Captain Beefheart’s Safe as Milk in 1967.
Among his singles were “Little Sister” (1979), “Gypsy Woman” (1982) and “Quicksand” (2010). His three dozen albums and compilations include Into the Purple Valley (1972), Paradise and Lunch (1974) and I, Flathead (2008).
Cooder has composed soundtracks for more than 20 movies, including Candy(1968) and Performance (1970), both with Mick Jagger; Paris, Texas; The End of Violence; Steel Magnolias and Primary Colors.
Highlighting his love of Cuban and world rhythms, Cooder produced the successful Buena Vista Social Club album in 1997. He played a one-time concert at Carnegie Hall with the ensemble. The album topped Billboard’s Latin chart, won a Grammy in 1998 for Best Tropical Latin Performance and prompted a documentary film of the same name that was nominated for an Academy Award in 2000.
Talking Timbuktu, Cooder’s 1994 collaboration with Malian guitarist Ali Farka Toureacute;, hit the No. 1 spot on the world music charts for 25 weeks straight, setting a record. It also won a Grammy for Best World Music Album in 1995.
Cooder’s many career awards include six Grammys, a Critics’ Choice Award, a European Film Award, a Golden Satellite Award, a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award and many others. He was presented with the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist in 2007.
Cooder married photographer Susan Titelman in 1970. They have one son, Joachim, also a musician.
In 2011, Cooder wrote Los Angeles Stories, a set of intertwined, fictional stories set in southern Los Angeles in the 1940s and ’50’s.
On September 10, 2013, he released Live in San Francisco, featuring the band Corridos Famosos and his son, Joachim Cooder, on drums. It was his first live recording since 1977.